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GPEN Conference brings scientists from around the world

Monday, November 07, 2016

LAWRENCE — Scientists will gather in Lawrence this week for the 11th biennial conference of the Globalization of Pharmaceutics Education Network (GPEN), hosted by the University of Kansas School of Pharmacy’s Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Close to 300 doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members and industrial scientists in the pharmaceutical sciences representing 22 countries will attend the event, which kicks off Wednesday, Nov. 9, and runs through Saturday, Nov. 12.

Founded at KU in 1996, the concept of biennial GPEN Conferences was created primarily for the benefit of doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows in the pharmaceutical sciences. Recognizing the global nature of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry that hire so many of their graduates, then-department chair Ron Borchardt sought to give these young scientists increased exposure to the educational and scientific programs as well as the culture of countries around the world.

"At that time, the big pharmaceutical companies were merging, and the trend was toward globalizing operations," Borchardt said. "We needed a way to introduce our doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows to this global environment and give them a global perspective. Many of our doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows had never traveled outside of the United States."

Attending this year will be 165 doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows and 80 faculty members from 49 of the 52 universities that are members of GPEN, including 17 from North America, one from South America, 18 from Europe, 12 from Asia and four from Australia. About 40 scientists from the pharmaceutical industry will also attend. The conference is hosted every two years by one of the member universities, and this will mark the third time KU has hosted.

School of Pharmacy Dean Ken Audus attended his first GPEN event as a professor 20 years ago. Traveling with students to locations such as Zurich, Switzerland; Uppsala, Sweden; Kyoto, Japan; Leuven, Belgium; Melbourne, Australia, and Helsinki, Finland, Audus said he has seen Borchardt’s vision realized.

“As educators, we must encourage students to think globally, beyond the labs where they spend so much of their time and the cities, states and countries where they live,” Audus said. “Providing students opportunities to share their research with people from around the world and to do that in places that are often new and unfamiliar to them will make them better scientists.”

GPEN2016 will include 49 podium presentations and 106 poster presentations by doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows and seven short courses taught by faculty members. Mike Powell of Sofinnova Ventures will deliver the keynote address, "Drug Discovery and Development: The Venture Capital Perspective." The agenda will also include tours of the Bioscience and Technology Business Center (BTBC). The BTBC, located along KU’s West District, provides space and guidance for both large companies and startups. The conference events will also showcase historical sites in Lawrence, including Liberty Hall, The Eldridge Hotel and Abe & Jake’s Landing, the School of Pharmacy Building in KU’s West District and the Lawrence Arts Center in downtown Lawrence.  

Photos: At top, Ron Borchardt, former chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Right: School of Pharmacy Dean Ken Audus.

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